Blacksmith Shop brings in nostalgic art
November 29, 2006
Chester’s Blacksmith Shop is trying something new this holiday season with an exhibit titled "My Lonesome Crowded West," a collection of paintings by Robert Mars, which will run through Jan. 14.
"It’s a little bit different," said owner Jeff Wardell. "This appealed to me in a really wow level, in a different angle."
Wardell opened his shop a little over a year ago to bring, what he calls, an art program that recognizes artists of the urban street and "newbrow" movements.
"You just don’t see it exposed in the middle of the country," Wardell said. "I thought what better place to try it than Park City. It will introduce this work to people that haven’t seen this type of art before."
That philosophy also extends beyond the art on the walls.
"The whole idea behind the store is to bring to Park City work that’s not around here," said Johnny Cooney, artistic director for Chester’s Blacksmith Shop. "We want to have nice clothing and name brands that everyman can purchase.
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"You don’t have to be rich to shop here. We do that with our clothing and for the hipster, skater and businessman," Cooney said.
Wardell named his shop after the historical days of the city. He hopes many people in Summit and Wasatch County now understand what his shop is. He said people from various parts of the valley would drive to his shop with horseshoes ready to be pounded by a blacksmith.
Wardell said a lot of the art he is showing comes from artists who are published in the magazine Juxtapoz, a magazine he says has the second largest circulation among the art world in the country. Many of the artists have been around for a decade or more but people here may not have seen them.
"It caters more towards a demographic that is younger than older," Wardell said. "The artists may skateboard or they may snowboard and they show how that crosses over into the art world. Professional skaters may be artists on the side. The Blacksmith shop is here to capture that lifestyle."
Cooney said some of the past artists featured in the gallery were tattoo and graffiti artists something that wasn’t for everybody. "My Lonesome Crowded West" however, has a broader appeal.
Robert Mars’ work depicts images he had of childhood when he traveled on road trips with his family. His pieces are mixed-media collage-based paintings of neon signs, classic automobiles, and architecture of the West.
"It’s much more accessible to any age group," Wardell said. "I can see a guy in his ’50s or ’60s say ‘I used to drive that car’ or ‘My dad drove that car when I was a little kid.’ I thought that would be a fun program or show during Christmas."
The work Mars creates may arouse a sense of nostalgia with many Parkites.
"This is much more approachable than artists we had in the past," Cooney said. There are no social or political viewpoints. It’s just really reminiscent of childhood trips with family."
Mars, who currently resides in New York, is a successful graphic design artist who will also sell clothing during his exhibit. Painting is a hobby that brings him solitude.
"It’s pretty meditative. Living in New York is hectic and I go home to paint and it’s the other side of that," he said.
His meditative state often brings him back to the simple days of childhood. Early on in his art career, he admits he didn’t have a set style. After living away from home, he found his painting niche by connecting to the past.
"Things that remind me of my childhood, those kinds of things stood out," Mars said. "Those icons are pretty predominate."
Mars uses recycled materials such as paper bags and other items to create texture. He will transfer photos he takes and mixes them with paint on canvas.
"His art is based on iconic pastime Route 66 symbols," Cooney said. "He uses a lot of landmarks from different areas such as signs from hotels and drive-through restaurants. They have a lot to do from the area they are from. They are really historical, all iconic to their own region.
"A lot of them are landmarks," Cooney continued. "Everything is original. He travels around and takes pictures. They are all very textured with paper bags and old maps."
While different than the average exhibit, "My Lonesome Crowded West" still fits into what Wardell wants in his shop.
"It’s definitely geared to men. It’s accessible to most people. Cars and American driving is much more of a masculine thing," Wardell said. "The women shop downstairs first for themselves then they go up and find something interesting for their husbands."
Chester’s Blacksmith Shop carries a varied assortment of items men would find interesting.
There are fishing books for sale titled "America’s Best Waterholes" and "356 places to fly-fish." There are books on sports and travel.
"Really, it just appeals to any kind of guy," Cooney said. "You don’t have to be an art lover to find something you like here. It’s a huge mix of stuff. It’s very broad."
"My Lonesome Crowded West" Wardell believes will be enjoyed by many Parkites as well. Wardell has been trying to get Mars’ work into the gallery for some time now, he said.
"I just really responded to Mars," Wardell said. "We have the crowd here that knows it and can appreciate it. During Sundance we’ll try to get a little more edgy. "
"My Lonesome Crowded West" by Robert Mars will be on display at Chester’s Blacksmith Shop through Jan. 14. The shop is located at 613 Main St. For more information, call 645-0668 or go online at http://www.chestersblacksmith.com.